Interview with Rowan de Venables
author of The Owner of Destiny
1. What was your goal when you first began to write The Owner of Destiny?
To have fun. Yeah, seriously… <ahem!>
And then the imperial governor asked the peon sardonically, "What is fun?"
“Strategy,” the man replied, looking the ruler in the eyes, “fascinates me. The empire… is doomed.”
2. What attracts you to fantasy?
I’m not sure how neatly my book fits into the fantasy genre, but it’s probably a better fit there than anywhere else.
I do love fantasy though. I’ve been a fan of the genre ever since I read The Lord of the Rings when I was in high school. Strange as this may sound, I see more of my own self -- my experiences, values, worldview -- in fantasy than in any other category of writing.
3. What word best describes the feeling you would like to invoke in your readers through The Owner of Destiny? What kind of response to this book are you hoping for?
For example, we all are vulnerable to being blinded by some kind of prejudice, and I would like to think that any decent person would rejoice with our narrator when he finally overcomes a personal blind spot. Right? So, through the narrator’s moments of victory in this story, I want my readers to feel like they, too, are winners because they’ve identified with him and his struggles.
b) Response? I wouldn’t mind provoking dialogue about the kinds of injustices that are part of the setting for this story, and the entire trilogy, Ghost Warrior Saga, as well. That may go without saying though.
4. Do you think The Owner of Destiny is plot-driven or character-driven? What strategies did you use in plotting this story? What techniques helped you develop your characters?
b) Yes, well now, I may throw down the gauntlet before the imperial governor by announcing that strategy is fun, but I don’t employ it in my writing nearly as much as I could. For this story, I started out with a set of three or four scenes in mind, and then I just wrote my way toward each one of them.
I wasn’t much of a dictator with either the plot or the characters. I was more like a quarterback tossing the story to my wide receivers (the main characters) and leaving them to catch it and run in the general direction of the end zone. Probably not the most efficient way to write a novel, and if somebody thinks they are going to make a living writing, I wouldn’t recommend my method to them.
The way I write, though, is fun. I can join my characters in their world and go along on their adventures with them. They always surprise me, and I like surprises.
c) Frankly, I don’t know how I “develop characters”, or even if I do that at all. Mostly I just try to treat them with respect. Some of them I love, some of them I don’t even like very much, but as long as they play their role well, they have the right to be authentically who they are.
5. Which character in The Owner of Destiny would you choose to honor at an awards assembly? Do you think any of your characters come close to expressing who you are? Which character would you wish to be like?
a) And now, the award for “Best Cat Friend In All Atlan” goes to… meow… Tempest, the galley cat.
b) I read somewhere, sometime, some writer’s comment that his characters were all an expression of something about himself. I suppose that applies to me, too. At least loosely. I am not a rapist, like those purifier thugs. That may go without saying too.
c) Maybe my role model character would be Chelli. Chelli, the grim and silent archer. (Even if he did get only a bit part in the story.) Like Chelli, I too like shooting a bow. I’m just not as good as he is. Or was.
It’s really too bad his time to die came so quickly. And I can’t even bring him back later because he is in no way qualified to become a ghost warrior. But, you know, maybe he’s got a daughter or a son somewhere, someone who can appear at some point, seeking revenge for his death. Hey, even bad guys normally have someone who loves them.
Yes, yes, I know he’s a bad guy. Of course I do. I wrote the book! Or maybe the book wrote itself through me. In any case. I know who Chelli is. I like him because he doesn’t waste any words. Ever. So, what he does say has real impact. He doesn’t waste any actions either. And even in death, when it’s all over and who should care anyway at that point, he refuses to bargain; he stays true to himself.
6. How would you describe the relationship between reader and writer?
Master and slave. The reader ultimately calls all the shots and renders the judgments.
Writing would not be any fun at all without the hope of someday getting to please readers.
7. How do you balance your life as a writer with your everyday life?
Probably the most important thing I do for myself is use a pen name. It helps me draw a cleaner line between the mystical world of my fiction and the pragmatic world of action.
8. What is the most important lesson that writing The Owner of Destiny has taught you?
That I need a good editor! I’m too anarchistic of a writer for most people to deal with without a sensible, analytical editor to ground me.
9. What advice do you have for beginning writers?
I don’t know that I can add much to what’s already been said to aspiring writers. But still, it’s worth emphasizing the fundamental point. Do you want to write? Then write… write… write… write… write…
And yes, if you haven’t read Christopher Vogler’s The Writer's Journey then I’d recommend it. And not just for his analysis of the mythic motifs. Yes, that’s cool as hell, but I suspect that if someone doesn’t already have a love of the old heroic tropes, then it might not be something they can learn from a book.
No, there’s something more here. High wisdom. Besides Vogler’s unforgettable and inspiring account of his venture into the Big Sur wilderness—that alone is worth the price of the book—I’d say that just about any writer, of any category or genre, can benefit from his insight that writing a story is in itself a hero's journey.
Yes, Writer, you will meet threshold guardians and mentors, allies and enemies, setbacks and victories. And you may even slay a dragon and come back from your quest bearing a shining story in your hand as a gift for your people.